Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ivan and the Moscow Circus

Ivan and the Moscow Circus by Myrna Grant is one of my favorite books. Originally published in 1980, it was republished with Grant's other Ivan books in 2006.

Ivan, his younger sister Katya, and their parents are Christians (Believers), living in Soviet Russia. On his way home from visiting out-of-town relatives, Ivan meets Volodia, another teenager, who is an acrobat in the Moscow Circus. After Ivan takes a risk and tells Volodia about his faith in Jesus, Volodia tells Ivan about his uncle, who has been imprisoned in a mental hospital for writing anti-State poetry.

It doesn't take long for Ivan to decide, as a Christian, he must help Volodia and his uncle, even though they aren't believers. The boys' schemes keep us on the edge of our seat in this suspenseful, uplifting novel. After meeting with a foreign journalist, Ivan is shadowed by the KGB, Katya is brought in for questioning, and an informal investigation of Volodia is conducted at the circus.

Throughout the novel, we see Ivan live out his faith consistently, despite his fear of government retaliation. Whether being ridiculed at school, followed by the KGB, or hiding in the trunk of a car, Ivan trusts God, and never compromises. We are excited to see all three children depend on God to carry out a daring rescue. We also rejoice with Ivan when Volodia makes a decision to follow Christ.

The book is illustrated in pen and ink line drawings, which perfectly convey the stark, industrial feel of Soviet Russia. Drawings are infrequent (every 10-20 pages) but support the text when they do occur.

What I Like: Ivan and the Moscow Circus is a fast-paced adventure, with a solid grounding in Christian faith. Ivan is a likeable hero, who lives his faith no matter what. Even though Volodia is skeptical of Christianity, Ivan is determined to help him. He is kind and gentle when sharing his faith, respectful of his parents' wishes, and brave in the face of danger. Despite all these heroic qualities, Ivan is still a regular boy who gets exasperated with his sister and daydreams at school. This makes him a person readers will relate to, and hopefully readers will learn that they can be kind, respectful and brave too.

Grant is a master at naturally weaving Scriptural truths into conversation, as well as subtle doses of simple apologetics. This makes the books perfect for readers who may need to defend their faith at school or to non-Christian friends. Ivan prays and trusts God's leading many times, such as when he and Volodia are trying to come up with a plan for rescuing Volodia's uncle. Ivan says, "Katya's right, Volodia. I will help you. Right now I can't think what to do, but there is a text in the Bible, 'With God, all things are possible.' I'll count on that."

Ivan and the Moscow Circus also provides a fascinating introduction to Soviet Russia and the Moscow Circus. This publication includes a brief glossary of Russian words, and explanations of The Young Pioneers, KGB, and life as a Christian in Soviet times.

What I Dislike: Nothing

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 9-12, (perhaps due to references to treatment of Believers in Soviet Russia) but younger readers will relate to Katya and be interested in the Circus descriptions.

Publisher Info: Flamingo: Christian Focus Publications, 2006; ISBN: 184550135-7 ; Paperback; $6.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $5.49
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $6.99.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: